What Your Doctrinal Statement Might Be Missing

Is your doctrinal statement missing anything? Did you leave out something about the resurrection? A line about the atonement? Was it your trinitarian position? Could it be, heaven forbid, that you neglected to enunciate some hardline dogma on your millennial position or the correct English translation of the Bible? Some of those issues are important, and some aren’t. (You can decide which ones.) It’s more likely that your doctrinal statement is missing something that is at the core of Christianity.

What is your doctrinal statement missing?

Christianity is more than the sum of the parts of a doctrinal statements. Christianity, of course, is formed by doctrine, but that alone does not define our faith. Our faith is living, moving, acting, breathing, forming, creating, loving. In other words, our faith is practical, not just doctrinal.

It is common to state that you can’t have good doctrine without having good actions. That’s not necessarily true, however. Exhibit A:  Pharisees. These guys had doctrine that was impeccable. Jesus lambasted the Pharisees, but not on account of their doctrine. Instead, he criticized them for their practice. The same is true today. Joe Christian may have crossed every doctrinal T and dotted every doctrinal I, but his personal behavior might be like that of a black mamba.

Doctrine and practice cannot be separated

Too often, we hold doctrine as separate from practice. Want some evidence? Look at any doctrinal statement. In most of the doctrinal statements I researched, there was little to nothing about practical behavior. The major doctrines of the faith were there. I applaud that. What was missing was any connection of doctrine to a person’s lifestyle or behavior.

When we separate doctrine from practice, however unconsciously, we degenerate into bad practice. Bad practice, in a very real way, is bad doctrine. Being unkind abut right doctrine is a contradiction. If your doctrine is right, it doesn’t require that you act like an idiot to get your point across. Right doctrine is as right doctrine does.

Here’s some proof. James writes “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). It’s that simple. To illustrate, James beginsm “someone says he has faith” (James 1:14). Okay, that’s good. Any church in the world will say that they have faith of some sort. They may even whip out a doctrinal statement to prove it. “Here’s our statement of faith!” they say. Okay, good. Is that faith statement good enough by itself? No! “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

A Good Doctrinal Statement:  faith and works.

I recently found this on the website of faith-based organization. This was part of their “what we believe” section.

We believe that…Christians…must [act] with humility, grace, honesty, and compassion as a visible sign of the Spirit’s presence in Christ’s body, the Church.

Ironically, this organization holds to a set of beliefs that may differ to some degree from other Christians. Yet their belief on this point is biblically tenable. They insist on an attitude of understanding and kindness where the Bible allows Christians to differ. Yet they also insist on Christian behavior that the Bible leaves no question about.

Does doctrine divide? Perhaps it does. Perhaps that is good. But right doctrine also guides right lifestyle. Right doctrine makes us kind and loving people. Right doctrine makes a person gracious and tolerant. A confession of faith should be a confession of lifestyle. For that reason, maybe it’s time to revisit your statement of faith and see if there’s anything about the life of faith — the life of a Christian…the core of what it means to really believe.

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  • Reply Timothy Durey October 2, 2012 at 3:52 am

    Usually there is a differentiation between a church covenant and a doctrinal statement. The covenant expresses the lifestyle issues more in detail. Also, if a doctrinal statement says anything about sanctification, then it out to e communicating what you’re saying.

    That said, it is always good to make these issues more explicit.

    • Reply Terry W Spencer October 2, 2012 at 9:23 am

      Point well taken.

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